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Thursday, 28 February 2013

Raspberry & Chocolate Tarts

The sharpness of the raspberries in a sweet pastry case smothered with the most amazing chocolate ganache is a winner everytime, either as a treat or dessert at the end of a special meal.

I tend to make these as individual tarts, no fighting over who has the largest piece, but they can be made as one large tart.
Here's what you need for 4 individual tarts;  200 g Sweet Pastry, 150 g raspberries (fresh or frozen), 1 measure chocolate Ganache

1)  divide the pastry into 4 balls.  On a lightly floured surface roll out each ball to a rough circle about 3mm deep and line your tart mould.

2)  trim the excess pastry around the top of the tart mould, pierce the base in several places and gently press the edges into the sides of the mould and rest for 10 minutes before baking.  This helps prevent shrinkage when cooking the pastry.

3)  in a pre-heated oven at 180C cook the tarts "blind" for 8 minutes.  This involves lining the pastry with either baking parchment or foil and weighing it gently with baking beans.  (If you don't have baking beans, don't worry, I've used sugar or even breadcrumbs in the past to weigh down the foil)

4)  after 8 minutes remove the lining on the pastry and cook the cases for a further 2 minutes, then remove from the oven and allow to cool.

5)  make the chocolate ganache.

6)  fill the pastry cases with raspberries and cover with the warm ganache and place in the fridge until required.

7)  serve sprinkled with icing sugar, fresh raspberries or raspberry coulis or cream.

Sweet Pastry Recipe

This is a very simple and versatile recipe for sweet pastry.
Here's what you need;  250 g plain flour, 100 g butter, 50 g sugar (caster or icing), 2 eggs.  It is possible to halve these quantities if required. 

1)  put the flour and sugar in a bowl, cut the butter into small chunks and add to the flour/sugar.

2)  "rub" the butter into the flour using your fingertips.  The texture, once rubbed-in, should resemble crumbled biscuits.

3)  beat the eggs together lightly and add them to the mixture.  Using your fingertips again thoroughly mix the egg into the mixture until it all comes together as a ball.  The resulting pastry will be slightly sticky and feel difficult to work. Please wash your hands after handling eggshells.

4)  wrap it in clingfilm and put in the fridge for at least 40 minutes.  The pastry will keep for a couple of days if tightly wrapped in the fridge.

5)  when you are ready to use the pastry, lightly flour your work surface and roll the pastry out to the required size, shape and thickness.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Basic Pasta Recipe

Fresh pasta is incredibly easy and fun to make.  If you have an hour to spare it is well worth while. 
Once you have made the dough, rest it for half an hour while you do something else, that way it is not too onerous on your time.
Here's what you need to make enough tagliatelle for 2 people;  220 g strong flour, 2 eggs, pinch of salt.  The basic rule is about 100 g - 110 g of flour per egg.

Let's make some pasta!
1)  Put your flour and a pinch of salt in a bowl and make a well in the middle.  Some people like to make pasta on the counter top and start with their flour in a mound on the counter, but to be honest, I find this messy and less hygienic than using a bowl. 
2)  Break your eggs together in a seperate jug/bowl and beat them to break up the yolks.  Add the beaten egg to the centre of the flour.  Please wash your hands after handling egg shells before mixing and kneading the pasta.
3)  Start mixing the flour into the egg, I use a fork to start the process, then get your hands in there to thoroughly mix it altogether. 
4)  Now get it out on the counter and start kneading/pummeling the dough as if your life depended on it!  Ever wondered why Italian women over a certain age are so strong?  Keep kneading, stretching for about 10 minutes.  The dough actually starts to take on a slightly shiny look.  

5)  Wrap the dough ball in cling film and rest it (and yourself!) in a cool place for half an hour.
6)  The dough is now ready to be rolled out.  The easiest way is with a pasta roller but can be done by hand with a decent rolling pin.  Divide the dough into 2 manageable pieces and, using a rolling pin, roll it so that it will fit through the largest setting on the pasta roller.
7)  Starting with the largest setting reduce the setting on the machine a step at a time until you reach the smallest setting giving a lovely long thin sheet of pasta ready to be cut into the shape of your choice.
Once you have mastered basic pasta, try adding finely chopped spinach or tomato paste or even squid ink into the flour and egg mix. 

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Basic Pizza Dough and Bread Dough

Once you've made your own pizzas you will never buy a ready-made supermarket pizza again.  By the way, did I mention how easy this is?

Here's what you need for 4 large pizza bases; 500 g strong plain flour, 11/2 7 g packets Easy Bake Yeast, olive oil, salt to season and approx 300 ml warm water.

Let's make dough;

1) mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl

2) add a good swirl of olive oil and gradually add the water, mixing the dough together as you go.  Once you have a slightly sticky dough with all the flour blended, you have enough water.

3) knead the dough by hand on a flat surface for several minutes, then put back in the mixing bowl and cover with a damp tea towel and leave to prove in a warm place for at least 1 hour.

4) after an hour the dough will have risen.  You can now "knock-down" the dough (knead it again) and seperate into 4 even sized balls ready to roll-out for pizza.

Sweet Potato and Orange Soup

The combinations of soups are virtually endless.  Here is a recipe for one that is always popular when we put it on the menu.  Fantastically warming on a cold winter's day.

Here's what you need for 6 portions;  50 g butter, 50 g plain flour, medium onion, 2-3 medium sweet potatoes (peeled & chopped), an orange, couple of stock cubes, salt & pepper to season and about 1.2 litres water.

Ok let's cook;

1) melt the butter in a pan with the chopped onion and sweet potato.  Once the butter has melted and the onion is starting to soften, stir in the flour.  Stir to make sure everything picks up the flour and also to prevent burning the flour.

2) add the water in 3 -4 stages.  Each time you add water stir the pan to incorporate everything.  As it heats it will thicken.  Squeeze the juice from the orange into the soup and put the orange halves in to cook with the soup.

3) add seasoning and bring to the boil.  Allow to boil for about 15 minutes.

4) remove the orange halves before blitzing the soup, check the consistency (add more water if needed) and check the seasoning.

5) serve with a swirl of cream and some fresh crusty bread.

Chicken Liver Pate

An easy to make pate, ready in 20 minutes, to be used as an everyday snack, starter or impress as part of a dinner party.  Fresh chicken livers are always best but you can buy frozen and defrost them in advance.  To dress up the pate try serving it with some caramelised red onions or a cumberland sauce.

Here's what you need; 50 g butter, 50 g bacon lardons, 1 medium onion, clove garlic, green peppercorns(optional), splash brandy, 450 g fresh chicken livers, salt & pepper to season.

Here's what you do;

1) Peel and roughly chop the onion.  Melt butter with onion, garlic and bacon over medium heat until bacon is cooked and onion is softening.

2) Trim any large sinew from the chicken livers and chop the livers into smaller pieces.  Add the livers to the pan and turn up the heat.

3) Stir the pan and start cooking the livers.  Add the brandy, seasoning and green peppercorns, if using, and allow to cook.  Chicken livers and pate can be served pink, so don't overcook.

4) Remove from the heat and blitz the whole lot together to make a smooth pate.  If you want a really smooth pate, after blitzing you can pass the pate through a wire mesh.

5) Place the pate into a pate mould or suitable container to set.  I sometimes use the washed out pot that the livers came in.  Stick in the fridge 'til cold and serve with some nice fresh bread.

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Chocolate Ganache

A beautiful, rich and smooth chocolate sauce for cakes and tarts.

Here's what you need; 125 ml double/whipping cream, 100 g good quality dark chocolate 70% cocoa, 25 g butter, 25 g sugar.

Here's what you do;

1)  heat the cream over a gentle heat until it just boils.  Remove from the heat.
2)  add the sugar and starting adding the chocolate one chunk at a time and gently whisk

3)  keep whisking as you add all the chocolate and butter.
4)  the ganache is now ready to use - filling cakes, topping tarts etc.  As it cools it will set, so use while still warm to gain that beautiful shiny, level finish.
Here's a link to the chocolate bizcocho that I use ganache in;
and a link to the chocolate and raspberry tarts;

Chocolate Bizcocho

This is one of the easiest cakes you will ever make!  Bizcocho is a traditional Spanish cake usually served at coffee time.  Often it is flavoured with lemon (Bizcocho al limon) or apple (Bizcocho manzana), but this is my twist on it, with chocolate.  I first made this as a birthday cake for my friend's daughter.

Here's what you need; 125g pot of plain/Greek yoghurt, oil (olive oil is great but not extra virgin, its too strongly flavoured), white sugar, 4 eggs, self raising flour and cocoa powder.  Cake tin/loaf tin oiled & floured to prevent sticking.

Now put away the weighing scales - you won't need them!
1) Pre-heat your oven to 150C for fan assisted or 160C without fan.  Gas 4.

2) Empty the yoghurt into your mixing bowl.  Keep the empty yoghurt pot, it is now your measuring tool.
3) Add 1 yoghurt pot measure of the oil.

4)  Add 2 measures of sugar. 
5)  Add all 4 eggs to the bowl and whisk the whole lot together.  This gets some air into the mix making for a lighter sponge.  Do not over whisk.
6)  Add 2 measures of flour, 1 measure of cocoa powder and a teaspoon of baking powder and stir to mix it together and get rid of any lumps.
7)  Pour the mixture into your cake tin and put in the middle of the oven for approx 45 mins.  The cake should rise.  Test to see if its cooked by sticking a metal skewer or small knife into the centre of the cake.  If it comes out clean (no cake mix stuck to it), its cooked.

8) Remove the cake from the tin and allow to cool on a wire rack.
If you wish, once cooled, the cake can be sliced horizontally and filled with your favourite butter cream or chocolate ganache.

For a variation, instead of adding cocoa powder add an extra measure of flour and some lemon zest and juice.  When the cake is cooked you can
top it off like a lemon drizzle cake. 
Other variations include adding sliced apple or mango & coconut to the mix............

Friday, 15 February 2013

Simple Tomato Soup

This is a simple tomato soup, flavoursome and quick to make.

Here's what you need for approx 6 portions; 50g butter, 50g plain flour, 1 medium onion, couple cloves garlic, large tin tomatoes (780g), couple stock cubes and about 1litre water.

Now, this is what we do with it

1) Peel and roughly chop the onion and garlic and put them in the pan with the butter

2) Over a medium heat melt the butter and sweat the onions and garlic

3) Add the flour, stirring to combine with the butter

4) Add the tomatoes, continuing to stir to combine everything.

5) Add the water, increase the heat and bring to the boil.  As the soup heats, the flour will continue to thicken it.

6) Add the stock cubes and season with salt & pepper.  I also like to add about 25g of sugar.  The sugar helps combat the acid in the tomatoes.

7) Once the soup has boiled and you are happy with the consistency, blitz with a hand-held blitzer.

8) Serve while hot, adding a swirl of cream or chill and refrigerate for up to 4 days.